Notre Dame students serve in parishes for graduate credit


Four Notre Dame students who are working in Camden Diocesan parishes as part of the requirements of their graduate program. They are Laura Berlage from Indianapolis, Abigail Craycraft from Milford, Ohio, Pamela Tremblay from Granby, Mass., and Amy Winkler from Memphis, Tenn.

Graduating in May 2011 from Notre Dame after majoring in Theology and Pre-Med, Laura Berlage, from Indianapolis, began her apprenticeship this past fall at Church of the Holy Family in Sewell, working with mentor, Clare McNamee, Director of Christian Formation for the parish.

During her first year at the parish, Berlage’s work has included teaching two religious education classes four days a week; organizing a Taize prayer service; and facilitating religious education classes for youth on Sundays.

In her work, Berlage is happy to see the influence she is having on others in passing on her faith.

“The best moments, are when somebody gets ‘it’,” she says, referring to “the basic concepts of the faith.”

Berlage has also bonded with her three housemates, and the four “come together as a community,” with communal prayer and meals.

McNamee, in her daily interactions and mentorship of Berlage, has seen the student’s “youthful enthusiasm for the faith.”

“That can’t do anything, but inspire us,” she said, adding that Echo is “a great gift for the diocese.”

The four students “give me confidence that the church will go on. Laura is a sign that he will never leave us.”

“Echo is a beautiful opportunity to use theology and faith in a practical way…and be able to share it,” said Abigail Craycraft, from Milford, Ohio.

Graduating from Boston College, after double majoring in philosophy and theology, Craycraft applied to the Echo program in the fall of her senior year.

This past year, she has worked at St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Sicklerville, with Marianne Exler, Director of Religious Education and pastoral associate for the parish.

Exler sees one of her roles as mentor, to “nurture (her), and help Abigail better herself.”

Working at St. Charles, Craycraft has taught religious education to second and eighth graders and helped organize Lenten activities such as Stations of the Cross, and a prayer reflection.

The 22-year old has enjoyed “meeting people and getting a taste of their story, and seeing how God has worked in their lives.”

From Granby, Mass., 22-year old Pamela Tremblay has spent her year ministering at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Gibbstown.

“I’m here to serve the church,” she said. “I’m excited to see where the Holy Spirit will lead me.”

This past year, Tremblay has helped organize and lead intergenerational events and small group gatherings during Lent. She has also been involved with retreats for students in grades 4-8 of Guardian Angels Regional School.

“I am delighted with Pam, and her rich background in theology, and people skills,” says her mentor, Sister Mary Gentilini, Pastoral Associate.

“She has been very gracious, and has extended herself to the different circles of parish life.”

In living with the other Echo apprentices, Tremblay has found a community where each can “share our ideas, encourage each other, and get re-energized.”

“With our different cultural, educational, spiritual, and personal experiences, we’re constantly learning from each other,” she said.

Amy Winkler, 23 years old, from Memphis, Tenn., agreed with her housemate.

“Community life has been phenomenal,” she said. “We pray with each other and share in each other’s joys and trials.”

Hearing about Echo from a classmate from St. Louis University, who is now in their second year of the program, Winkler found out she was accepted in March 2011, before she graduated with a degree in theology.

“Echo is the next step I wanted to take.”

Working at Christ the King Parish in Haddonfield, Winkler is learning the “ins and outs, and talking with the faithful who are able to share their challenges, their joys, hopes, and dreams,” she said.

Among other programs, Winkler has worked with youth ministry and homebound ministry, taught religious education to fifth graders and participated in the parish’s religious fair.

“She brings an energy, that has helped me bring more to my work,” remarked Kathy Isherwood, Faith Formation Coordinator and Director of Religious Education, and mentor to Winkler.

“She has brought in fresh ideas, and fresh questions.”

In their community, the four women have brought “a lot of diversity, experiences, and opinions,” Winkler said.